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HomeCOVID-19From Moral Re-Armament to global government: Part 1

From Moral Re-Armament to global government: Part 1


THE concerted and radically interventionist response to the Covid-19 pandemic has ignited speculative thinking on the plans of a putative global elite. In this two-part essay, Niall McCrae and Roger Watson take a historical perspective, focusing on two organisations: Moral Re-Armament and the Trilateral Commission. Neither are household names, but they have played a significant role in priming the political and cultural landscape for world government.

Whereas Moral Re-Armament was rooted in Christian philanthropy, the Trilateral Commission is a post-religious promoter of technological control of population and resources. They have in common a mission to transcend independent, democratic nations and to create a rational world order, free from political debate. Part One focuses on Moral Re-Armament and the roots of globalism.


In 1908 a disillusioned Lutheran pastor left Pennsylvania to begin a new journey in life. Soon after arriving in England, the young man attended a religious revivalist meeting in Keswick (then Cumberland, now Cumbria). There he had a profound experience of the presence of Christ, which he immediately shared with a fellow attendee on a lakeside walk.  On this windswept road to Damascus began the mission of Dr Frank Buchman (1878-1961) to ‘remake the world’.

Buchman returned to America and established the First Century Christian Fellowship in 1921. Engaging students in American universities, the organisation grew and had considerable success on Ivy League campuses and at the University of Oxford. When a team of Buchman’s pilgrims arrived in South Africa in 1928, they were dubbed the ‘Oxford Group’, and this name was generalised for everyone involved in Buchman’s work for the next ten years.

Buchman was ideological and strategic in his approach. He was also ambitious in his aims. He was avidly opposed to the Soviet system and Marxism, and his movement at times proclaimed and took an avowedly and actively anti-communist stance. Naively, Buchman attended the Nuremberg Rally in 1935, which led to him thanking God for Adolf Hitler because the Nazi dictator was standing up to communism. That infamous gaffe plagued the rest of his career. However, it should be noted that, at the time of his comments British and American foreign policy was not implacably averse to Nazi Germany, and there are indications that Hitler had support in high places.

With the imminence of another world war, and memories of the 1914-18 carnage still fresh, Buchman believed that morality was the key to halting the military momentum. In 1938 he founded Moral Re-Armament (MRA). With darkening clouds over Europe, Buchman tuned into the Zeitgeist of a prevailing fear of devastation, of which ample evidence was provided by the deadly machinery in the Spanish Civil War. In 1939 Buchman filled the Hollywood Bowl in the United States in a Billy Graham-style evangelistic drive. Four giant spotlights projecting into the night sky represented the four pillars of MRA: absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love.

MRA did not leave the stage in the Second World War. To obviate any perceived pacifism, Buchman encouraged his followers to sign up with the allied forces. The contribution of MRA to the war effort was praised by Senator Harry Truman, who said: ‘There is not a single industrial bottleneck I can think of which could not be broken in a matter of weeks if this crowd [MRA] were given the green lights to go full steam ahead.’

After the war, MRA sent ‘task forces’ around the world to continue its programme, which emphasised ‘cooperation, honesty and mutual respect between opposing groups’. Meanwhile Buchman recruited celebrity figures to the MRA cause including author Daphne du Maurier. Such prominent membership boosted the profile of MRA, thereby gaining the attention of world leaders.

MRA was no obscure talking shop: it had seminal impact on the shaping of the post-war world.  Earlier in his career, Buchman had remarkable success at cultivating universal harmony with political leaders such as Carl J Hambro, president of Norway.  Alongside Hambro, Buchman was involved in the launch of the League of Nations (predecessor of the United Nations) in 1920. He and Hambro were keen participants in the creation of a united Europe. Buchman worked behind the scenes to encourage the post-war leaders of France, Germany and Italy to cooperate on this venture. MRA had close links to the Bilderberg Group, a secretive globalist organisation founded at the eponymous hotel in 1954, and later with the powerful Trilateral Commission.

Buchman, to all intents and purposes, founded his own religion. In its heyday of the late 1940s and 1950s, MRA remained true to its Christian inspiration. The absolutes of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love were deployed to challenge and change young men, who were expected to exercise these standards in perpetuity and to instil them in the lives of others. MRA worked at various levels from individual evangelism to cultural exploits in theatre and literature.

However, by the 1960s the organisation had evolved from practical philanthropy into a rigid hierarchy, topped by men in suits engaging in international diplomacy. A notable feature of MRA was its ownership of prestigious properties in the major cities of the world. For example, in London it owned a property in Berkeley Square and afterwards, in addition to the Westminster Theatre, it bought palatial townhouses in Catherine Place and Buckingham Place. The latter was once the London home of John and Jackie Kennedy. In addition, they owned a Cheshire estate, Tirley Garth, which housed many activists and was used as a country retreat and conference centre. A prime example of the property portfolio of MRA was Mackinac Island, Michigan, where major international meetings were held. This impressive estate was meant to appeal to the class of people on whom MRA focused their efforts, including industry leaders and politicians.

On Buchman’s death in 1961, the work of MRA was continued by British journalist Peter Howard. His reign was short-lived. In 1965 he died suddenly (and some within MRA think suspiciously) while representing the organisation in South America. Following his death it was decided to run the movement collectively. Around this time MRA went into decline, partly due to infiltration. Several communists were identified in MRA and double agents appeared to be working to usurp this avowedly anti-communist organisation.

The MRA survived in name until 2001, but its story did not end there. Initiatives of Change, a non-governmental organisation, was formed from its remnants. This was the brainchild of Erik Andren, a charismatic polymath, inventor, architect and entrepreneur.

Initiatives of Change bears little resemblance to MRA. Its website promotes individual growth as the means of making a better world. While claiming to be ‘faith-based’, the Christian fundamentals of MRA are downplayed. However, MRA itself had long ago become a syncretistic organisation. In his later life Buchman caused concern to Christians when he said: ‘MRA is the good road of an ideology inspired by God upon which all can unite. Catholic, Jew and Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Confucianist – all find they can change, where needed, and travel along this good road together.’

Initiatives of Change spreads its wings through a plethora of hubs and internet activities around the world. A core theme is positive change through reconciliation and peace initiatives, working with refugees and promoting sustainability. However, gone are the grand properties, and most of the major conference centres. An exception is the former Caux Palace Hotel overlooking Lake Geneva, which has long been the world headquarters of the movement. It is run by Initiatives of Change as a commercial conference centre, mirroring the operation of its new owner, in whom any lingering MRA philosophy is little more than vestigial.

Buchman the globalist

Although the League of Nations failed to prevent war, it provided a framework for the subsequent formation of the United Nations in 1946. Undoubtedly Buchman strove to instil a Christian vision within both of these global organisations, and his ability to bring world leaders together was grounded in his strong faith.

Testament to the influence of Buchman is the fact that planning meetings for the European Community were held at the MRA headquarters in Caux. Present at the meetings were the architects of a united Europe: French prime minister Robert Schuman, German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, and Italian prime minister Alcide de Gasperi, whose portraits adorn the walls of the main hall at Caux. The specific influence of Buchman on Adenauer and De Gasperi is uncertain. But his influence on Schuman was profound and Schuman left his substantial Paris residence in prestigious Bois du Bologne to MRA, which became the French headquarters of the work.

Global industrialist Frits Philips was a prominent member of MRA. It is worth noting that Philips’s daughter Annejet was married to Paul Campbell, who had served as Frank Buchman’s personal physician and who also accompanied Peter Howard on his international work, including his final and fatal visit to South America. The possibility of MRA being manipulated or used for their own ends by characters like Philips becomes more apparent when it is understood that he was a founding member of the Bilderberg Group.

The Bilderberg Group was ostensibly a peace initiative between Europe and North America, involving the great and perhaps not so good from politics, industry, finance and academe. Initially the group was under the chairmanship of the highly controversial ex-Nazi and scandal-ridden figure of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. In essence it is an elitist organisation and, while it makes no secret of its existence and meetings, membership is by invitation and proceedings are confidential. The group meets annually at prestigious locations such as the Gleneagles Hotel, and it continues to be chaired by a succession of European nobility.

The Bilderbergers have demonstrable links to another powerful body of the global elite, the Trilateral Commission, which we will discuss in Part 2. In 1986 Philips launched the Caux Round Table group of senior European, Japanese and American business executives, a similar geographical grouping to that of the Trilateral Commission. Andrew Young, a Trilateral Commission member, addressed the MRA annual conference in 1987.

In facilitating globalist organisations that became synonymous with conspiracist conjecture of a ‘new world order’, was MRA a Trojan horse for people and ideas that went well beyond its aims? The movement was also used to provide a smokescreen of legitimacy specifically to the founding of the European Community and its prestigious premises used to bring together those identified as the key players. Buchman’s personal commitment to this initiative is not in doubt but it is likely that he was corrupted by personal ambition and a desire to achieve something significant for MRA in the post-war years. Certainly, MRA and its sequel Initiatives of Change make plentiful reference to the part played in founding the European Community.

It is hard to gauge the real impact of MRA on world politics, but there were some notable events with which it was intimately and publicly associated, such as the transition to majority rule in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Less was made publicly of MRA attempts to influence the Solidarity movement in Poland, and of their early visits to Communist China.

MRA was prone to exaggeration of its achievements in world affairs, although it cannot be criticised for effort. It undoubtedly inspired the globalist and elitist Bilderberg Group, which may be viewed as a bridge from the philanthropic but naïve world movement of MRA to the technocratic globalism of the Trilateral Commission and World Economic Forum. The time for talking was over . . .

A longer version of this post, with references, appears on The New Conservative and is republished by kind permission.

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Niall McCrae and Roger Watson
Niall McCrae and Roger Watson
Dr Niall McCrae is a lecturer in mental health and Roger Watson is Professor of Nursing at the University of Hull.

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